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As the Ryder Cup turns

The things that often have nothing to do with winning the Ryder Cup are usually the most examined. Case in point: the role reversals of the U.S. and European teams with just over two weeks to go before the matches.

While the Americans were getting all chummy for two days in Ireland, there was a fair amount of sniping going on among the winners of four of the last five Cups and the team favored to retain it at The K Club outside of Dublin.

There was Monty dissing Ollie and Ollie getting annoyed at Woosie and Woosie nowhere to be found until he showed up to announce his captain selections after doing a poor job of keeping everyone in the loop.

It's the kind of stuff that shouldn't matter once the balls are struck at the Ryder Cup, but nonetheless the subject of so much fodder.

After a seemingly successful journey to Ireland following the Bridgestone Invitational for all 12 members of the American team, the Europeans have spent the past week chipping away at the very foundation that has made them so strong: their camaraderie.

First, Colin Montgomerie questioned why Jose Maria Olazabal was not in Germany for last week's BMW International Open. It was the last qualifying event for the European team, and Ollie was holding on to one of the remaining spots. Monty felt he should have been there to nail it down.

Olazabal, however, decided rest would serve him better. He went hunting, and left things to fate. But he became upset when he learned that Ian Woosnam, the European captain, had also wondered about Olazabal's decision, putting his opportunity to automatically make the team in jeopardy.

Then there were Woosnam's at-large selections. He chose England's Lee Westwood and Northern Ireland's Darren Clarke, who has not played since the British Open due to the poor health and subsequent death of his wife, Heather.

Given that the matches are in Ireland and Clarke pronounced himself fit to play, this pick was a no-brainer. Clarke will play a warm-up tournament before the Ryder Cup and will undoubtedly serve as an inspiration to his teammates.

But the choice of Westwood has caused consternation, especially from the passed-over Thomas Bjorn, who ripped Woosnam in the British media.

"Ian Woosnam has definitely gone down in my estimation," Bjorn said. "So far his captaincy is the most pathetic I've known."

Although Westwood won 4½ points in the last Ryder Cup and has performed well at The K Club -- albeit five years ago -- his World Ranking, standing on the European Order of Merit and overall play in the Ryder Cup does not stand up to Bjorn's record.

What rankled Bjorn more, however, was how the process was handled. He never once heard from Woosnam until after the picks were announced.

"I found out that I was not in through watching television," Bjorn said. "How can that be right? Ian has put a lot of people through misery because he just hasn't done the right thing."

The Dane said he had nothing against Westwood, who is ranked 47th in the world to his 35th. And in the final European Ryder Cup points list, Bjorn was 13th while Westwood was 21st.

The comments about Woosnam were so strong that Bjorn was fined by the European Tour, though he later apologized.

It is interesting to note the acrimony on the other side of the Atlantic, and the relative bliss on the American side.

Not that any of it will matter in a couple of weeks.


Bob Harig covers golf for the St. Petersburg Times and is a frequent contributor to ESPN.com. He can be reached at harig@sptimes.com.